Tallinn, Dec 3, 1998. The Estonian Newspaper Association (ENA)
elected President Lennart Meri as the most press-friendly public
figure in 1998. Meri received the overwhelming support of the member
papers of ENA, who took the vote at their annual general meeting.
This was the fifth such vote since 1994, when ENA started the tradition.
The winner of the title receives a miniature loudspeaker, which
ENA hopes to extend to President Meri before the end of the year.
Meri received the title first and foremost for forging good ties
with the regional papers. Editors of those papers said their access
to the president has improved considerably in 1998.
Another reason for voting for Meri is the content of his public
addresses, which always provide a lot of food of thought for the
press, something which cannot be said about the speeches of several
other high-ranking figures.
It was pointed out, however, that President Meri should work more
on reducing the annoying unpredictability of timing his public addresses.
Withholding important statements until past the deadline for many
newspapers shows disrespect for, or ignorance of, the specifics
of the press - something which cost Meri the title of the most press-hostile
public figure in 1994.
The ENA annual general meeting found that Interior Minister Olari
Taal is the most press-hostile public figure in 1998. He earned
the mention for his fuzzy statements (or lack of statements) during
the Savings Bank/Daiwa Bank loan affair at the beginning of the
year, when whe was a banker. Also, some newspapers pointed out that
in his new job as interior minister, he should be more available
for comment on major issues within the domain of his ministry. “Currently,
he has surrounded himself with a wall,” was a typical complaint.